Minnesota continued to be among the national leaders in COVID-19 vaccine distribution this week and was helped by the approval of a third vaccine. As the Walz Administration continues to lead vaccine rollout efforts in Minnesota, the state now ranks third in the nation in the percentage of doses received that have been administered. Given progress to date and projected vaccine availability, all U.S. adults are now projected to have access to a vaccine by the end of May, around two months earlier than previously expected.
On March 1, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported updates on vaccination progress. At that time, 928,963 Minnesotans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 484,383 having completed a full vaccine series. Of Minnesotans over the age of 65, the primary prioritization group at this time, 54% had received at least one dose.
The Walz Administration has also continued to strive for equity in distribution across the state, across race and ethnicity, and with prioritization for those most at risk of exposure, serious illness, and death. MDH officials also announced updates to prioritization groups for vaccine distribution, with individuals with type 1 diabetes and certain rare conditions including ALS and cystic fibrosis now added to the next prioritization group.
The Walz Administration also announced a partnership with the Minnesota Vikings to add a community vaccine distribution site. The partnership will use a community vaccination event this week at Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center in Eagan. Approximately 13,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered at TCO Performance Center to health care workers and adults 65 years of age or older.
On February 27, the Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Minnesota is expected to receive an initial total of 45,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. Weekly vaccinations are expected to continue to expand going forward with increased production of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and with additional shipments of the Johnson & Johnson arriving beginning in the third week of March.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs from the previously approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer in several ways. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires 1 shot, rather than a two-dose course. Also, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not require deep freezer storage at temperatures well below 0 degrees, which simplifies the distribution transportation of the vaccine. While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have shown greater efficacy in preventing severe illness due to COVID-19, health officials urged Minnesotans to take the first vaccine available to them as all vaccinations help to slow and stop the spread of the virus. All three vaccines that are now in distribution provide significant protection from illness and death from the COVID-19 virus, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine showing 100% efficacy in preventing hospitalization and death in U.S. trials.
The Minnesota Department of Health continues to urge Minnesotans to use the state’s Vaccine Connector to reserve alerts, resources, and notifications to connect them with a vaccine when they become eligible. The online form to sign up for the vaccine connector can be found at this link. Detailed guidance from MDH on future phases of the vaccine rollout can be found here.